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Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: March 22, 2019

"I've discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing." ~Anna Quindlen“I’ve discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.” This advice from Anna Quindlen frames our collection of articles this week.

Recognizing the quality of our efforts and focusing on ways to improve our contribution to the field is core to writing success. We begin this week’s collection with an examination of effective feedback, finding the gap in the research, and getting into a habit of data management. We then explore the challenges and benefits of balancing family and academic lives. Finally, we close with a look at textbook subscriptions in the publishing market and how to construct a CV for the academic job market.

Whatever the state of your writing or career this week, start where you are, no matter how bad, it can eventually lead to something better, but doing nothing will certainly lead to nothing. Happy writing!

Giving feedback on writing – be specific

So how do you best give feedback? Well, obvious really. When we read a drafty text, it’s helpful to remember the kind of feedback that we find most useful – and that is almost always feedback that is specific. Feedback that says something particular. Specific feedback gives you something to go on. You know what’s at issue. You can either reject it or deal with it.

Mind the gap

The defining requirement of a PhD is finding, articulating, and filling a research gap (hereafter, The Gap). Without this, the purported thesis is a mere collection of words discussing a topic. And this is never enough for a PhD.

Getting into the habit… A PhD student’s perspective on data management

Research Data Management (RDM) is an important day-to-day activity for Scientists. Research output, collaborations and productivity depend on it. No surprise, then, that the documentation of a project’s RDM has become a requirement for many grant applications. By writing a Data Management Plan as part of the PhD proposal, we students are not only confronted with the whole data lifecycle of our research data before it is even generated, but we also gain experience in how such a plan is written.

How having kids made me a better academic

There are challenges to mixing academia with kids: conference travel, the difficulty of taking on a teaching role when you are the primary carer, the fog of sleep deprivation, leaving your brilliant flow to make the mad dash to childcare before closing time, not being able to attend academic events outside of office hours, the countless cancelled meetings, etc. However, I can see some very real benefits to my academic life post-children.

Textbook subscriptions are making huge inroads, but it will be some time before they dominate the market

One year ago, it was clear that the higher education textbook publishing market was not working for students. Student PIRGs, a coalition of college independent research groups, reported that, since 2006, the cost of textbooks had risen at four times the rate of inflation. With professors choosing the text and students paying for it, publishers held huge pricing power. But in the past few years, a tipping point has occurred. Student PIRGs found in 2014 that 65% of students weren’t buying all the required course material because the cost was so high. While OER provided an alternative, it remains imperfect. Two companies—the incumbent Cengage, and the recently transformed FlatWorld—believed they had a solution: textbook subscriptions.

How to write a CV for the academic job market

For those of us who have been on the job market, who have secured tenure-track positions or who have been faculty members for a number of years, the ins and outs of a CV seem self-explanatory. Yet, in many ways, they are not — especially for graduate students who may not get this sort of professional development in their program.